SCMP Wednesday, November 14, 2001


Tax rise preferred to health insurance

MARY ANN BENITEZ

People would rather pay higher taxes to subsidise public medicine than take out medical insurance, according to a Chinese University survey.
A total of 1,001 people aged over 18 were questioned in a telephone interview from October 4 to 9. Fifty-five per cent of respondents said they would accept increased taxation to improve public medical services, while 69 per cent said they were against mandatory medical insurance.
In addition, 72 per cent said they would support a $100 charge for emergency services to reduce abuses.
Professor Wong Chack-kie of the department of social work said the findings were surprising and that there might by an economic factor.
"Nowadays we are in a downturn and people may be less willing to contribute for health care [in the form of insurance]," he said.
The favourable perception of public health care made people more willing to support services through taxation, he said.
Professor Joyce Ma Lai-chong, chair of the department of social work at the Chinese University, said: "Generally over 70 per cent of the public are very satisfied with the performance of our health-care services. However, they are worried about the future.
"They think the best way to guarantee health care is through government intervention."
Secretary for Health and Welfare Dr Yeoh Eng-kiong on Monday said a charge for using hospital emergency rooms would definitely go ahead and that a consultant's report on this would be ready in March.
But his bureau's proposal for compulsory health contributions for workers has been shelved and is unlikely to be introduced for five to 10 years.
The health protection account would be set up for each employee and spouse, with mandatory contributions of one to two per cent of earnings from the ages of 40 to 64. The savings could be used until the age of 65 for medical and dental care.